A day hiking up Bukaksan
At 342m, the tallest of Seoul’s four guardian peaks, Bukaksan (also transliterated Bugaksan and Baegaksan) was off limits to the public for 38 years following an assassination attempt by North Korean agents on then President Park Chung-hee in 1968. Security remains tight along this spectacular 2.5km section of the Seoul City Wall, The main north gate can be accessed from Samcheong Park.
This section of the wall is also open only during daylight hours and photography is allowed at designated spots only, such as Baekakmaru , the summit viewpoint. The wall is in excellent condition and with plenty of soldiers and CCTV cameras, there’s a vivid sense of its original purpose as the city’s last line of defence.
Bukaksan Fortress Walk
Every year Tourists and locals alike can enjoy the fortress walk. A walking trial of 2.2 kilometers in the Bukaksan Fortress which is right behind the presidential house is there for anyone to enjoy.
A visitor’s pass must be worn at all times during the hike. To get one, a hiker must come to one of the two trail heads between 9 a.m. and 3 p.m., present a passport or government-issued ID and complete a short form, which is available in English. So make sure you bring it along with you. Otherwise entry is impossible.
Once you are on the trail, you can turn back but you cannot leave the path. Unarmed soldiers dressed in pea-colored windbreakers watch every hiker’s every move. The soldiers are respectful, offering directions, but they will intervene the moment a camera is turned in the wrong direction: toward the presidential office downhill.
On the north-facing side of the trail are a centuries-old granite fortress wall, part of a 21-kilometer enclosure that once protected central Seoul, and two modern steel fences topped with concertina wire. The trail side facing the presidential compound is lined with infrared sensors that would alert soldiers, heavily armed and waiting in out-of-sight bunkers around the hill if they had to defend the presidential compound from intruders.
Such restrictions are part of the allure of the walk, which generally takes about two hours to complete and attracts about 400 people a day.